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Public health agency identifies West Nile virus in Carbon area

By Sun Advocate

Utah public health officials have confirmed that the West Nile virus has been identified in Carbon and Emery counties.
Blood recently drawn from two chickens in the Price area showed the presence of the virus.
In addition, two horses from Uintah and Emery counties tested positive for West Nile virus last week.
Preliminary positive results have also been isolated in two pools of mosquitos in Utah and Uintah counties, but no human cases of the virus have been reported in the state.
Utah State University’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory processed the prelimary tests on the sentinel chicken blood from Carbon County, explained the state health officials. Further testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed that the chickens had been infected with West Nile virus.
Chickens are infected with WNV through bites from mosquitoes carrying the virus. The birds are used as “sentinels” to detect when the virus is present in mosquitoes as a warning for humans, horses and other animals, explained the Utah Health Department.
Testing of sentinel chickens, dead birds and mosquitoes will continue statewide, added the health department. However, tracking and monitoring resources may be shifted to look for the virus in other areas of the state.
To date, 14 people, nine horses, 262 chickens, 98 dead birds and thousands of mosquitoes have been tested for West Nile virus at locations across Utah. Only the chickens in the Carbon area along with the horses in Emery and Uintah counties have tested positive.
It is important to continue vaccinating horses against WNV, stressed the public health officials. Mosquito abatement efforts will continue statewide and increase in areas where the virus has been found.
Since people can become infected with West Nile virus through mosquito bites, Carbon County residents should follow several protective measures. The preventative practices include:
•Mosquitoes carrying the virus are most active from dusk to dawn. Therefore, people should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites during the peak activity period.
•Individuals venturing outdoors should apply insect repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluaide).
Repellents containing DEET at 30 percent to 35 percent concentration are recommended for adults. Repellents with 10 percent or less DEET are recommended for children for 2 to 12 years of age. Repellents should not be used on children younger than the age of 2.
•People should take cover when possible.
Individuals should wear light-colored long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Mosquito netting should be used when sleeping outdoors and when people gather in unscreened structures. Netting is also be used to protect small babies.
•Local residents should make sure screen doors and window screens are in good condition. Small holes are large enough to allow mosquitoes to enter a dwelling.
People should eliminate places for mosquitoes to reproduce, especially standing water sources around private residences.
Examples include standing water in old tires, cans, poorly kept swimming pools, toys and wheelbarrows.
Water that is kept outside for specific reasons like for pets and birdbaths needs to be changed at least once every two to three days.
Clean rain gutters once a year.
Aerate ornamental ponds or contact your local mosquito abatement district about pond treatment.
Maintain swimming pools properly or drain them.
WNV can be a very serious disease, which can result in death. Even in areas affected by WNV, most mosquitos do not carry the virus therefore the risk of being infected from a single mosquito bite is very low. Infected mosquitoes do not look or behave differently from mosquitoes that are not infected. If a person is bitten by an infected mosquito and becomes infected, four out of five people will not develop any symptoms of the disease, and only about 1 in 150 will become seriously ill. However, it’s still important to prevent mosquito bites since WNV can cause a serious illness, especially in persons over 50 years of age or with weak immune systems. People with serious West Nile disease have a high fever, fatigue, and headache and many become confused, have seizures, go into a coma, or rarely die. There is no specific treatment or human vaccine in WNV.
WNV was first found in the United States in 1999 in New York City and has spread across the U.S. since then. The virus is spread from bird-to-bird by mosquitoes. Many birds can become infected with the virus and not become sick, while other birds, especially crows, ravens, magpies and jays, often die when infected with the virus. Individuals can also help by watching for and reporting dead crows, raptors, ravens, magpies, or jays. (For public domain photos of these birds, visit www.wildlife.utah.gov). Reports of dead birds should be made to local Wildlife Resources office, local health departments, local mosquito abatement districts or the Utah Department of Health’s Office of Epidemiology.

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